I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I love more than letting my imagination run wild while I enjoy glorious summer days and evenings. There are tons of great books out there, but for some reason I still feel like my perfect summer read is an amazing Middle Grade book. Maybe it’s nostalgia for my childhood summers on Lake Champlain, sitting on the dock or the beach and doing nothing but reading. Maybe it’s the way summer always feels magical, like anything can happen. All I know is that there’s something about summer that inevitably draws my attention to the Middle Grade shelf at home, in the store or the library. Here are 10 of my favourite MG reads to help you make your own summer magical!
1. May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson
This was one of the first Middle Grade books I read in my adulthood and it Blew. Me. Away. May Bird is a 10-year-old girl living somewhere in West Virginia with her mother and her hairless cat, Somber Kitty. She doesn't think her cat is all that great and always tries to send him away when all he wants is to spend time with her. May is a little odd, doesn't fit in with the rest of the kids around, and would much rather be exploring the woods as May Bird Warrior Princess than play with the other kids. Once she falls through a pond in the woods and ends up in the Ever After which is being taken over by Bo Cleevil and his henchmen, I knew this story was a keeper. May Bird, Somber Kitty and the characters of the Ever After will charm any boy or girl and adult. There are two other books that follow and they are as rich, imaginative and adventurous as the first. You will not be disappointed in May Bird.
2. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
There are five books in this series about a sister and brother (Kendra & Seth) who are sent to stay with their hardly-known Grandparents while their parents are away. Little do they know their Grandfather is the caretaker of Fablehaven, a sanctuary for mystical creatures. There’s magic, faeries, mystery, adventure, and fantastic story-telling in all five books. Be warned -- you might not like Seth very much in the first two books, but stick it out because he grows up and becomes a strong character in the end. If I had to recommend one Middle Grade series to anyone, this is my choice hands down! (Also a great pick for both girls and boys!)
3. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
I won’t lie. I totally chose the cover art to match the edition I had as a kid. I remember loving this book to pieces and even did a huge poster-board display for it in class. Island of The Blue Dolphins is not only a classic, but a stirring tale of one girl’s bravery and survival after she’s left behind on an island. Based on a true story, this is one Middle Grade book that will capture your heart and soul. It’s a great read and often on summer reading lists (one of the few books that likely won’t make your child roll their eyes and say “Ugh. That looks sooooo boring!”) I rarely liked any of my scholarly summer reading choices and I read a LOT, so this one has always stood out to me!
4. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
Think about this: all the magic and enchantment of Harry Potter but set the story in a total fantasy world with a 10-year-old blind thief as the main character; toss in some pirates, a tyrannical ruler of a magical land and three sets of magic eyes that Peter uses throughout the story. This 2011 debut novel enchanted me thoroughly and was possibly my most beloved book read that year. Peter Nimble is such an endearing protagonist and his heroic and brave actions will leave your heart full. I have to give a special mention to Sir Tode, Peter’s travelling companion who is a knight trapped in a body that’s a cross between a horse and a cat. Although a little darker than other MG titles, Peter Nimble is sure to enchant readers of all ages!
5. The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
If you’re not a big fantasy or magic fan but you like a good suspenseful and mysterious story, then The Kneebone Boy is for you! You might think this book is fantastical but it’s not though; it's actually just plain ol' fiction that makes you think it shall blossom into the fantastic and keeps you page turning to find out more, more, MORE! An unknown narrator tells the story of three siblings: Lucia, Otto, and Max and I had my suspicions throughout as to which of the three was narrating, but half the fun is trying to figure it out. The writing is sharp, clever and fun. The children are great characters and their adventures border on the scary (yet not really), mystical (yet not at all) and silly. There is a castle, a dungeon and a floating bicycle, plus tattooed thugs and a Viking. All of these things make it sound like this is a fanciful tale, but it's amazing how perception and reality can mesh together so well. Bottom line? Fantastic middle grade book full of mystery and humour.
6. The Quest of the Warrior Sheep by Christine & Christopher Russel
No, really. Warrior sheep. It can’t get any more awesome than this, folks! This book was available in the UK before it crossed the pond to North America. I read it before it made it’s way here and it was a couple of hours of sheer hilarity.
It’s a crazy mystery with five hilarious, rare-breed sheep who go on a quest after a mobile phone falls from the sky and they think it’s a sign from their Lord Aries, Sheep of All Sheep. Humans, sheep, a llama and a dog all have roles to play in this book; it is the type of book I would have pulled off the shelves in the library in my elementary school upon first glance. It's simple to read and fun and has a mystery to keep you reading and it's just plain funny. I personally left this book with a permanent image of 5 rare-breed sheep travelling by Tube. Heh. Sheep are funny.
7. Suddenly Supernatural by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Imagine Nancy Drew if Nancy could see and talk to ghosts and spirits. Kat’s mother is a medium and if you think being a seventh-grader is hard, try being one with a medium for a mum! The worst part is that when Kat turns thirteen SHE starts to see spirits, too! Now along with her new best friend Jac, Kat must try to help out the spirit of a girl who died at their school 50 years ago and try to not attract the wrong kind of attention from the Cool Girls who could (and do) make her life miserable. This is a series that I have made sure all my friends with middle grade readers in their family pick up. The typeface is large and well spaced out. Easy to read and likely good for young readers who aren't that into reading or have trouble. It's certainly something I would recommend to parents looking for a good summer book for their children (probably more girls than boys though). Not quite as dark and morose as the May Bird series, but Kat is just as likable as May was, though possibly written a little younger. The relationships between Kat and her mother and Kat and Jac are realistic (despite the talking to ghosts thing) and well-written. It’s one of the elements I loved most about these mysteries.
8. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Here’s a 2012 debut that’s action-packed and the start of a new trilogy! Four orphan boys are bought by nobleman who has a plan to try and avoid civil war in his country. The story is narrated by Sage, one of the orphans. Now, if you have read this book yourself, you might be wondering why a story about an almost-15 year old would be Middle Grade and not Young Adult, I'll tell you. This book is fun and I'd say almost completely G-rated -- with the exception of some death and fighting. But the book is not dark in any way. Sage is a delightfully snarky and intelligent protagonist who will charm the pants off you. No time for boredom with The False Prince -- you’ll be on the edge of your seat through the entire read, wanting to know what happens next and wanting to start your own adventures as soon as you turn that last page!
9.The Vindico by Wesley King
If superheroes are more your taste than faeries, magic and kingdoms, then look no further than The Vindico. Five children of varying ages are abducted by supervillians in order to get back at the League of Heroes. This is a book that had me giggling from the first page! As a major X-Men fan growing up, this would have been a book I’d have devoured if I’d seen it on the shelf. Who wouldn’t want superpowers, I ask you? This fun, action-packed story will entertain you as the five protagonists learn, just because you’re being trained for evil doesn’t mean you have to BE evil.
10. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Coming out this July, The Wishing Spellis the first book from “that kid from Glee” and it’ll charm and entertain you to no end. Twelve-year-old twins, Alex and Conner somehow manage to fall inside their book of fairytales and find themselves in a land of magic. As they try to find their way home they come across many of the the characters they grew up reading about. You’ll be delighted with each chapter in this story! Funny, imaginative and entertaining, this book is sure to be a hit read on summer vacation!
It always feels like anything can happen in summertime. Pick up one of these great reads and you’ll make sure anything can - and will! - happen!
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